The Latest Pendejada from Donald Trump
Donald Trompa is at it again. This time his pendejada has to do with a moronic plan to round up immigrants and ship them out of the country.
In a typically off-handed and simplistic utterance, presidential wanna-be Donald Trump tossed out the idea of forming a huge “deportation force” to round up immigrants and ship them out of the country. The notion is as immoral as it is impractical. Ridiculous and wacko are two words that come to mind. My parents, who came to this country legally from Mexico in the 1920s, were the victims of a massive deportation round-up similar to what carnival barker Trump is proposing. (Thanks for that one, Governor O’Malley.) My parents did nothing wrong, but they were made to feel like hunted criminals. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and Mexican descendants endured the same fate.
With his familiar smirk, Trump claimed a massive deportation of immigrants could be carried out simply and effortlessly. He pointed to the effort by the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s to send Mexicans back to Mexico. Trump called it a success. It wasn’t.
The policy was known officially by the racist name “Operation Wetback.” It was a misguided policy and the program itself was a disaster. It would be no different this time around. Trump wants to round up some eleven million presumably undocumented immigrants and ship them out of the country.
President Obama responded to Trump’s asinine assertions by saying, “I have no idea where Mr. Trump thinks the money is going to come from – it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to execute that.” And more to the point, the president said: “Imagine the images on the screen flashed around the world as we were dragging parents away from their children. Nobody thinks that that is realistic. But more importantly, that’s not who we are as Americans.”
Let’s hope that last phrase is true. But history shows that we Americans have misplaced our moral compass on occasion. (My stepson’s Japanese American grandparents were thrown into concentration camps during WWII; but that’s another story.) History shows we can conveniently forget who we are as Americans. Xenophobic policies have been tried in this country before, with tragic results. The general public in America doesn’t always know its history. But because of Trump’s foolish call for a “deportation force” people are beginning to learn about the ill-fated “Operation Wetback” of the 1950s. Ya era tiempo.
But I think it’s a sure bet most folks don’t know about the even more pernicious historical phenomenon called the Mexican Repatriation. My parents, Marcelino Torres and Aurora Chavira Torres, were victims of that insidious, monumentally unconstitutional policy.
The sinister Mexican Repatriation was carried out by the Herbert Hoover administration. It began in 1929 and continued for the better part of the 1930s. The U.S. military and local police forces carried out massive wholesale raids in Los Angeles and throughout the country in an attempt to “send the Mexicans back to Mexico.” Without even a nod to the presumed guarantees of the Constitution, authorities rounded up more than one million men, women and children – often at gunpoint — and sent them “back” to Mexico. Mexicans were the convenient scapegoats for the joblessness and dislocation of the Great Depression.
“They are taking our jobs.” Sound familiar?
Historian Francisco Balderrama takes note of this in his comprehensive book about the Repatriation. In “Decade of Betrayal,” he writes: “The wanton disregard of legal constraints in denying deportees their constitutional rights was so flagrant that groups as diverse as the Los Angeles Bar Association, the Wickersham Commission, industrialists and ranchers felt compelled to condemn the illegal tactics, but to no avail.” (The Wickersham Commission was charged with monitoring potential violations of civil rights.)
Most of those who were forcibly deported were actually United States citizens. Most of the children who were sent “back” to Mexico had been born here. Photos by iconic photographer Dorothy Lange reveal Mexican immigrants being herded into railroad boxcars. The images are disquietingly evocative of trains bound for Auschwitz and Treblinka.
When the Great Depression grabbed this country by the throat my father was a copper miner in Morenci, Arizona. My mother swept floors and cooked meals in a “company town” boarding house there. Police were breaking down doors and shoving Mexicans onto trains and buses. Entire families were deposited at the Mexican border. My mother told me those stories. Rather than wait to be arrested for the “crime” of being Mexican, my parents – along with their two infant children — “voluntarily” went back to Mexico.
A few years later they made their way back to the United States, eventually coming to California to toil as farmworkers. My family eventually settled in Los Angeles where I was born. The bitterness of the Repatriation never left my mother’s memory. When I was a kid in the 1960s she would sometimes recall el viejo diablo Hoover.” She would also refer to FDR as el hombre bueno. Roosevelt ended the Mexican Repatriation program as WWII dramatically changed the dynamic of the time.
So, today before we embark on a policy of repatriation with a Trump-inspired “deportation force,” we might want to examine our country’s history carefully. There is no such thing as a “humane” policy of massive deportations, the kind of hair-brained scheme being proposed by Donald Trump.
Journalist Luís Torres is the author of “Doña Julia’s Children.” He teaches journalism at Los Angeles Mission College.